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A World Cup 2022 Lesson on Culture

To our fellow football fans:

We hope you’ve enjoyed the thrills, cheers, and even the tears of the 2022 World Cup as much as we have. The games in Qatar have lived up to the promise of excitement, surprises, underdog victories, and of course, controversy. 

While much has been written on the social and moral issues of the host country, we wanted to highlight a very important international business reminder from these games.  

The Western Way is not necessarily the way of the world. We repeat. The Western Way is not necessarily the way of the world. 

Football is a sport SHARED by the world. These World Cup games, hosted by a non-Western nation, have reminded us how important it is to research and try to appreciate cultural nuances even if we don’t agree or fully understand them. 

There are many examples of how the Qatari culture directly impacted business success at the World Cup. For one, the last-minute decision by Qatar to disallow alcohol sales at their stadiums should not have been of great surprise to Budweiser if they truly understood that in a predominately Muslim country like Qatar, the widespread consumption of alcohol (and drunkenness) is in direct contrast to their local customs and moral values.  

Through our Washington DC-based business consulting services, we often remind clients that when they travel the world, they must recognize and respect cultural nuances and be mindful of these differences when they are conducting business, particularly in non-Western markets or in the global south (nations with lower economic development than industrialized nations). 

When you are planning on going global, truly explore whether your products or services will be viable in your target market. And if they’re not, try to identify ways to make them more sensitive to cultural nuances. The time spent researching a culture where you intend to operate will directly impact your long-term success there. 

Every nation on the planet has a unique and diverse culture, and share of challenges. It’s not for the West to aggressively impose our systems of beliefs and values onto another culture, but rather be mindful and respectful. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything.

December 16, 2022